If you go to any IIT Campus in India (be it Bombay, Madras , Kanpur or Delhi ) and mention the names McKinsey, BCG or Bain ( the Big Three as they are referred to ) , you will certainly see turning heads, lit eyes and attentive ears. These consulting firms are the darlings of the placement season, and people who earn interview shortlists are given demi-god status( you can literally hear the words, “Tu God hai yaar” if you manage to get on the shortlist) in a campus where almost every one already is treated like a demi-god back home( whether they deserve it is a different question altogether). The Big 3 are known for their rigorous selection procedure, which supposedly , only the best , brightest and the smartest can get through.
If you ask anyone why they would love to work in these firms, you will definitely hear a lot of similar responses. These mainly include the prospects of 1) An Up-in-the-Air-esque lifestyle 2) Doing an MBA from a top US B-School 3) building a wide network. All of these are definitely true, but what has always baffled me is why they think they are a good fit at these firms. I mean , all the ‘problem solvers’ and ‘analytical mind’ arguments aside, I believe that human interactions and relationships are at the heart of consulting ( you need to meet new , important , and rigid minded clients everyday ) , and at the risk of stereotyping ,I feel IITians terribly suck at that. I think even the firms recognize this fact to a great extent , but strangely, they still recruit mainly from the IITs.
I was having a conversation today with my manager today about the Indian education system and she made a remark , which immediately reminded me of this issue.We were discussing about how as children , we were able to learn English despite growing up in an environment where the only place you speak English is the school. Strangely enough, the kids we teach struggle to speak in proper English. This is what she said :
The problem with the Indian education is that it follows an “up or out”policy. People like you have succeeded not because , but rather in spite of the terrible education system .
The Indian teaching methodology is extremely uni-dimensional and caters to students with specific learning styles students . Only those students move up the academic ladder and the others are ignored completely and are left to rot. Other students who do not have these specific learning styles as their natural styles have two options before them : A) Adapt to these styles or B) Be Academically backward throughout life.
If you notice , most IITians have very similar learning styles : Listen to someone speak, write and then learn. This comes naturally to a very few people, but most of them are able to cope up, because their parents wired them into Option A, very often with the warning that you won’t survive if you don’t adapt. Thus, the notion of “Up or Out” is wired into them right from childhood. And this, I hypothesize, is the very reason, why they prefer working in consulting , because they have been equipped with the requisite mindset to work in such environs right from childhood.